What Should Think Tanks Do?

Here’s David Green, the Director of Civitas, writing in today’s Telegraph:

What should the think tanks do? As things stand, it’s not worth committing much time and energy to Mr Cameron’s policy reviews. This is not too much of a shock, because the Conservatives have not been receptive to ideas since they came close to nervous breakdown after 1997.Fortunately, most think tanks don’t measure their success by counting the number of policy ideas adopted by this or that party. Politicians rarely lead. Rather, they tend to follow public opinion, so the real challenge has always been to influence the thinking people in society, including academics, teachers, scientists, business leaders and many more.

But a year or so of open-minded reflection by the Tories would have been useful for all of us.

Well, it’s nice to see that the chap who runs Civitas thinks he’s got some kind of vocational crisis or other, just after his tank disgraced itself by publishing and publicising Anthony Browne’s ridiculous pamphlet (see below, passim), even if he thinks something else is causing it. My advice would be to introduce a quality-control mechanism to make sure obvious shit doesn’t get published under the Civitas imprint, to get a sub-editor to make sure pamphlets don’t have quite as many moments of illiteracy as Browne’s does, and to require controversial claims to be documented in their publications, with footnotes or other relevant citations of evidence, so that Civitas doesn’t publish quite so many falsehoods, and so on. That’s my advice, for what it’s worth. Beyond that, they can do what they like.

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